Martin Schulz, the newly elected president of the European Parliament - until the next elections in June 2014 - has promised to participate in the next EU summit even if he has to push his way in.
With this remark, Schulz expressed both his aspirations and a realization of the problems confronting him.
The 56-year-old Schulz was elected to succeed Jerzy Buzek in fulfillment of the deal between the European People's Party (the Christian Democrats within the European Parliament) and the European Socialists and Democrats. Buzek served as president during the first half of the term and now Schulz succeeds him for the balance. The European Liberals and Conservatives found themselves frozen out in the deal. A former mayor, Schulz was first elected to the European Parliament in 1994 and thus he can be said to have made a career as an MEP.
Although the European Parliament has been strengthened in terms of its powers, it has found itself playing third and even fourth fiddle within the European Union to the European Council and the European Commission and, most recently, to the European presidency as well. The European Parliament cannot impose a decision on the other bodies as national legislatures can sometimes do. Its members labor under the stigma that they are in the European Parliament because they could not hack it in national politics or are simply there for the perks.
Schulz, who became famous thanks to an altercation with former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in which the latter remarked that Schulz could be cast as a Nazi concentration camp guard in a movie, wants to upgrade the role of the European Parliament.
Schulz is a passionate defender of the European Union. In his inaugural speech, he assailed national egoism: "Our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbours; on a shared understanding that the EU is not a zero-sum game, in which one person must lose so that another can win. The reverse is true: either we all lose – or we all win.
The new president promised to seek an enhanced role for the parliament that went beyond "rubberstamping agreements reached between governments in back rooms in Brussels."
Schulz contends that the fact that the European Parliament is directly elected, as opposed to the other bodies, gives him a mandate to act in these troubled times when, for the first time, the European Union risks failure.
Schulz has promised to make noise and he has not always been very diplomatic. For example he compared his fellow French Socialists to pigeons: "When they are up, they crap on your face, and when they are down they eat from your hand,"